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“Winning is not a priority at Dartmouth.”
Don Mahler of the Valley News ran a three-part series on Dartmouth athletics (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) last week. His critique is spot on: we need a first-class Athletics Director who can inject energy and innovation into our slow-moving program.
The new athletic director needs to be someone with the personality and vision to pull off a drastic makeover, working with a mandate to do what it takes to change a culture of losing.
First of all, Dartmouth has to embrace the belief that athletics is a valuable component to the college experience, and that winning makes the experience all the more valuable. Excellence is excellence, in the classroom or on the athletic field.
“There is absolutely no educational redeeming qualities in chronic losing,” said Ted Leland, who served as Dartmouth’s athletic director from 1983-89. “You’ve got to give athletes the opportunity to be successful. They must feel that they have a chance to win.”
A winning athletic tradition does not detract from the academic mission of a college, but rather enhances it. Stanford, Princeton, Cornell, Williams — they all subscribe to that theory. Other schools in the Ivy League extol the successes of their student-athletes and believe high-profile coaches are as important as prize-winning scientists and Nobel laureates.
This comment is not a critique of today’s individual coaches or athletes — several teams have had consistent winning records over the past few years. But it does speak to the fact that a successful program requires the support of all parts of an institution, as Mahler accurately points out later on in his piece. Over the past decade, the previous administration let the rot set in on many levels, and the results are too often apparent on the scoreboard — and in the attrition rate of players from teams over the course of their four years in Hanover.
One coach’s comment in Mahler’s story sums up more than just the situation in the athletics department:
“It’s a bit of a mess,” said one current Dartmouth coach. “And I don’t see any hope in sight. It’s awful. It’s like going round and round in circles, heading nowhere.
“The general mood is to keep your head down, don’t say much and don’t expect much.”
Mahler concludes the second part of his series with an imprecation that will be familiar to readers of this space:
The new athletic director needs the promise of a free hand to make the changes that need to be made. Housecleaning will be painful, but it needs to be done.
Finally, Mahler finishes the series with a set of practical suggestions, the most important of which is to take oversight of athletics away from Dean of the College Sylvia Spears:
Today, in Dartmouth’s organization chart, the AD reports to the dean of the college — incidentally, another administrative position currently filled by an interim appointee. From what I can gather in talking to athletic administrators in and out of the Ivy League, this may not be the best way to do business. For the athletic director to wield authority and make the changes necessary, he or she needs to answer directly to the president and to have his direct backing to make personnel changes. And the AD should have a place in the president’s inner council of administrators.
Far be it for Dartblog to argue with that suggestion.
In sum, Mahler’s lengthy series lays out a textbook case of what happens to a vigorous area of campus life when it is subjected to a decade or more of inept management. As dedicated readers of this space know all too well, other examples abound.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own interviews, a review of…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…